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Patrick Mahomes suffered a high-ankle sprain during the Kansas City Chiefs Divisional Round Victory over Jacksonville. Despite the injury, Mahomes vowed to play on Sunday against the Bengals in the AFC Conference Championship.
After practicing in full on Wednesday, Mahomes is on track to do exactly that, but he will not be at 100%.
Tennessee Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill suffered two separate in-game high-ankle sprains this season and returned to both games. However, after the first ankle sprain, he missed the next two weeks.
Following the second one, he required surgery that ended his season.
Tannehill texted OutKick about his injury and how the seriousness of the injury can be extremely variable.
“It’s all about the severity and what all is affected,” Tannehill said. “High ankle gets thrown around a lot but there are varying degrees obviously of what all is affected structurally and how injured those parts are.”
Tannehill said that although his sprains this season caused him to miss multiple games, he played through similar — but less severe — injuries in the past.
“I’ve had high ankles before that hurt but was able to not miss any time. And then obviously this year was pretty bad and needed surgery after the second time,” Tannehill said.
Mobility is the biggest issue when playing with a high-ankle sprain. Tannehill noted that this season’s injuries limited him greatly.
“I definitely was not able to move around the same this year because of the extent of injury,” he said.
Sports medicine experts note potential mobility issues
OutKick also spoke to several former professional team doctors to gauge what Mahomes is facing by playing on a high-ankle sprain suffered last weekend.
Jesse Morse, MD is a sports and regenerative medicine specialist that practices in Miami, FL and is the primary Contributor to The Fantasy Doctors. He previously worked on the staff of the Miami Marlins.
Asked how healthy Mahomes will be in the game, Morse said he would be between 60-70%.
“He got lucky in that it sounds like this is a grade 1 right high ankle sprain,” Morse said. “He played through one in Weeks 1-2 of 2019 and had limited issues. Normally these take 1-2 weeks off and return in Week 3, think Mac Jones earlier this year.
“You can play through them, Daniel Jones did earlier this year, but mobility is awful, and they are painful.”
Dr. David Chao, who also writes for OutKick and previously served as a team doctor for the San Diego Chargers, agreed that mobility is going to be the big concern for the Chiefs QB.
“There’s no way he’s going to be 100%,” Chao said. “He won’t be able to run, but he can move in the pocket. His running ability will be below 50% of his normal level.”
Of course, Patrick Mahomes running ability is a big part of his game. Not just scrambling, but escaping defenders and extending plays. However, Chao notes that Mahomes talent allows him to still be successful without it.
“The fact that he makes a lot of off-platform throws and can change his arm angle at will allows him to navigate a lack of mobility. However, his deep ball accuracy beyond 15-20 yards might be affected.”
Deeper passes create challenges for Mahomes, Chiefs
That’s the other concern with the injury. Mahomes hurt his right ankle, which is the one he uses to push off on. Both Chao and Morse noted that deeper throws could be an issue.
“I expect them to have a game plan that accommodates his immobility and maybe more throws to running backs,” Morse said. “This is also to his throwing/power leg, so he may not be able to make some of the throws that he normally would be able to make.”
Both doctors also discussed the plan the Chiefs are likely to employ on gameday. Mahomes reportedly received a Toradol injection during Saturday’s game.
“The ankle will be heavily taped and they will likely use Toradol again before the game,” Dr. Chao said. “It’s possible they also use a numbing agent, but that will depend on Mahomes’ comfort level during the day.”
Dr. Morse wrote on Twitter that he would give Mahomes a stem cell injection on gameday if he were the team doctor. However, he noted that the Chiefs are unlikely to take this aggressive approach.
“I highly doubt they are going to inject him, as they don’t usually use [stem cells] and [platelet-rich plasma] would be too inflammatory and weak for him to play on Sunday,” he said.
It’s a risk-reward approach, similar to how Mahomes plays football. The key is trying to find the middle ground where Mahomes can be as comfortable and effective as possible without sacrificing the future.
Patrick Mahomes will not be 100% healthy when he takes the field on Sunday against the Bengals. But 60-70% Patrick Mahomes is still better than the majority of NFL quarterbacks.
But is it enough to beat the red-hot Cincinnati Bengals?
That’s the big question, and one we’re not going to get an answer to until Sunday night.
Follow Dan Zaksheske on Twitter: @OutkickDanZ